Posts Tagged ‘mister smarty plants’

John (founder of www.mistersmartyplants.com) is a member of Arlington Tree Committee. He figured out a way to use Google Maps to identify heritage trees in town and got a sign made to encourage residents to adopt a thirsty tree.

Now that so many urban and suburban areas have taken down their trees to make construction projects easier, people are realizing what they’re missing.

Many have noted that trees play a role in residents’ mental and physical health.

University of Washington research social scientist Kathy Wolf has studied the health aspects and also has economic arguments. She has shown that an “urban canopy”  makes local shopping more agreeable for customers and lends vitality to downtown business districts. Read what she has learned, here.

Chris Mooney at the Washington Post notes other research. “In a new paper published Thursday, a team of researchers present a compelling case for why urban neighborhoods filled with trees are better for your physical health. The research appeared in the open access journal Scientific Reports.

“The large study builds on a body of prior research showing the cognitive and psychological benefits of nature scenery — but also goes farther in actually beginning to quantify just how much an addition of trees in a neighborhood enhances health outcomes. The researchers, led by psychologist Omid Kardan of the University of Chicago, were able to do so because they were working with a vast dataset of public, urban trees kept by the city of Toronto — some 530,000 of them, categorized by species, location, and tree diameter — supplemented by satellite measurements of non-public green space (for instance, trees in a person’s back yard). …

“Controlling for income, age and education, we found a significant independent effect of trees on the street on health,” said Marc Berman, a co-author of the study and also a psychologist at the University of Chicago. “It seemed like the effect was strongest for the public [trees]. Not to say the other trees don’t have an impact, but we found stronger effects for the trees on the street.”

Thank you to my high school classmate, Susie from Cleveland, for putting the Washington Post article on Facebook.


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I have a few more photos to share today. The first is of some early flowers. (I don’t know the name. Will have to ask mistersmartyplants.com.) Next is a long-necked character hanging out in my neighbor’s backyard. Then there’s an example of how Arlington artists are sprucing up utility boxes, followed by the gourmet Bee’s Knees grocery in Fort Point, a commuter boat reminiscent of the water taxis we sometimes took when we missed the Ocean Beach back in the day, and a new fancy building about to sail into the sky. (Construction in Boston is making up for time lost during the recession. The view from my office window has been completely altered in just a few years.)

















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The big thermometer on the garage may have said 40 degrees when I woke up this morning, but I’m still thinking spring.

My husband has planted an array of annuals and perennials, and both kids are seeding lawns.

Since I am rather a fan of Mass Challenge winners and I also had a heartfelt testimonial from Mimsey, I encouraged both families to try a 2010 Mass Challenge winner, Pearl’s Premium grass seed.

Mimsey said that she had thrown Pearl’s into a wooded area next to her house, expecting nothing. Before she knew it, a lovely velvety carpet had grown there. Sounded to me like the beans Jack’s mother threw away that led to Jack’s adventures at the top of a beanstalk.

And speaking of plants, the plant identification site Mister Smarty Plants, a big supporter of this blog, needs my support tonight. So if you would like to help him get recognition at a Mass Innovation Night on June 10, vote for him here. It took me a while to figure out the voting. You have to vote for four entries in the event and make a comment. But you don’t have to give your name. Thanks!

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The plant-identification site Mister Smarty Plants, which I first blogged about here on May 23, 2011, just keeps getting better.

One innovation from the past year has been rounding up tweets containing photos of flowers and plants that people around the world want help identifying and bringing them to the site to be identified by the growing number of readers.

I used to get a lot of identifications right, but Mister Smarty Plants queries are quite exotic now, which makes the site both exciting and challenging.

Today, John announced a new design with special features like kudos to the week’s most successful plant identifiers.

The Smarty Plants concept has always been that the more people who come to the site with their questions, the more who will be available to identify plants. John has been persistent about finding new ways to reach the folks who need the service.

Even if you think you don’t know much about plants, check it out. It’s almost like playing a game, and believe it or not, there are people in other parts of the world who don’t know what a dandelion is.


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A friend is helping to build a playscape, a playground for all ages and abilities that takes advantage of the natural environment‘s restorative qualities.

My husband and I went to see where the playscape is emerging with a boost from the state’s Community Preservation Act. It is located over by Gowing’s Swamp, a lovely wooded area with native plants once cataloged by Thoreau. We walked on a hilly woodland path around the swamp and took note of Canada Mayflowers like tiny bottle brushes and a starlike white flower with six long, narrow leaves growing out from the stem at the same height. (If I’d had my camera, I’d have uploaded a picture at MisterSmartyPlants.com.)

The Sudbury Valley Trustees oversee Gowing’s Swamp, and have this to say about it:

“Gowing’s Swamp, named by Thoreau for its landowner in the mid-1850’s, is an 8.9 acre acidic wetland complex located in a protected, glaciated hollow on the eastern side of a glacial kame known as Revolutionary Ridge.  A kettlehole bog, at the southern end of the wetland, contains specialized plant communities that are locally rare in Southern New England.  The natural area provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife.

” ‘Unlike any other bog in New England, Gowing’s Swamp found its way into American literature by virtue of significant passages in Thoreau’s Journal,’ says botanist Ray Angelo, and has been visited and studied regularly over the last 160 years by Concord naturalists, literary and historical scholars, and has been the subject of ongoing scientific studies.” More here.

Photograph of Gowing’s Swamp: Sudbury Valley Trustees

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I never met my Syracuse grandfather. He was an osteopath and died before my time. But I often heard about his avocation, a remarkable alpine garden.

A garden needs a gardener, and it is understandable that the garden would fall apart after my grandfather’s death. But in recent years, neighbors got together to reconceive a garden on the site. In June 2007, their efforts paid off, with the mayor announcing the dedication of a memorial park.

“The Dr. James P. Burlingham Memorial Park will be officially dedicated on Saturday, June 30, 2007 … This park, formerly Gray Park, was originally a 2 acre meadow behind the house of Dr. Burlingham, which he slowly developed into flower gardens and a world famous alpine plant region in his spare time in the 1920s. … A small group of individuals from the neighborhood … decided to bring the park back to its original appearance with flower gardens and plants. … As part of the dedication ceremony on Saturday one of the doctor’s daughters, who is 94 years old, is expected to attend.”

That would be my Aunt Maggie, seen here with her daughter Claire.

There’s a passage on the garden in Remembering Syracuse, by Dick Case.

A gardening gene runs in the family. My son has it, both from my side and his father’s. As part of John’s interest in identifying mystery plants in his own yard, he came up with a crowd-sourcing solution. Today, if you upload a photo to Mister Smarty Plants, you can see if someone on the Internet knows what your plant is. Check it out.

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